Cardinals 5, Nationals 1
You can thank Adam Wainwright for setting the tone in this brisk two-hour, seven-minute game on Friday. There was no official pitch count on him today, but it was estimated to be at about 60 pitches in six innings. He wasn’t facing the normally formidable Nationals lineup, but he was inducing mostly weak contact early in counts by being near the plate.
Wainwright has allowed just one run in his last two outings (10 2/3 innings), and he doesn’t see the timing as a coincidence. Remember, it was before his last outing that he made the conscious effort to lengthen his stride. Wainwright also has avoided the “dead arm” period that is a usual spring nuisance to him. There’s been no such setback this year, he said on Friday.
“I don’t foresee that happening, though you never know, that can happen overnight,” Wainwright said. “My arm feels very good. The delivery feels solid for the first time in a long, long time.”
He also has officially been named the Opening Day starter, news that should come as a surprise to no one. Read today’s cardinals.com notebook (link here) to find out more about what that honor means to him.
Wainwright’s deep start (he’s the first Cardinal pitcher to throw six innings in a game this spring), allowed for the bullpen to set up much as it is expected to during the regular season. Edward Mujica pitched the seventh. Randy Choate faced the first batter (a left-handed hitter) in the eighth. Fernando Salas finished the inning. Jason Motte closed the game by covering the ninth.
Of course, Mitchell Boggs was missing from the equation — he’s still occupied with the World Baseball Classic — but the other four at least got some late-inning work for a change.
But, cautioned Matheny: “We still have to be very focused on the fact that they’re working on things. They’ve all been getting hurt with their third-best pitch because it’s been a priority for them to get the repetitions. We’re encouraging them to work on the things they need to work on, not just their strengths, but their weakness. That’s sometimes sets you up for outings that are not necessarily as clean as you’d want him to be.”
Mujica, who had allowed 10 runs in his previous four appearances, found much better spots with his slider, a pitch he’s been working on all spring. He ended up striking out the side on Friday. Choate allowed a hit; Salas retired three straight. Motte worked around an error and a walk to pitch a scoreless ninth.
The deeper the Cardinals’ starters pitch, the tougher it is going to be for Matheny to keep finding innings for some of the other pitchers left in camp who are expected to start the year in the Minors. Many are on the “available pitchers” sheet each day, but only make their way into games if there are extra innings to cover.
Those who fit in this category: Maikel Cleto, Michael Blazek, Eric Fornataro, John Gast, Tyler Lyons, Seth Maness. At some point soon, the Cardinals are going to have to move those in the bunch who are slated to be starters (Blazek, Gast, Lyons and Maness) to Minor League camp so they can get sufficient innings.
Jaime Garcia will start for the Cardinals on Saturday (12:05 p.m. CT) against the Tigers. Marc Rzepczynski is expected to pitch in relief; it will be Rzepczynski’s first appearance since that unfortunate eye incident on the golf course a week ago. Rzepczynski was cleared to return to game action by an eye doctor on Friday.
Once quick note on coverage: I am briefly leaving town due to a prior personal commitment and won’t be back with the team until Monday. The blog will be dark until then, though there will continue to be fresh coverage on cardinals.com. When I return Monday, I’ll pass along information for those who want to join in the By Gosh Bracket Challenge again. I’ve done this for several years and it seems to be something many of you enjoying.
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